I do not envy the man who messed with Banks. In her debut album, Goddess, she has enough man-hate going on to rival Taylor Swift. Most of the songs feel like listening to an ugly breakup, which sometimes feels gritty and raw, and sometimes self-loathing and dreary.
Banks is a first-time artist. The American 26-year-old alternative singer toured with The Weeknd in 2013 and since then has been working on her album. She’s had two previous EPs, London and Fall Over, both of which were released on SoundCloud.
Banks really tries for an icy, brooding feel with trip-hop beats and hollow lyrics. Stylistically, her music is a bit like Lorde. Her voice is a little rough around the edges, sometimes inciting chill and other times inciting boredom. While Banks is clearly a talented musician with lots of potential, the whole album feels forced and unnecessary. It lacks the color and vitality necessary to distinguish an album. Most of it is weary and restless, leaving me ultimately unsatisfied.
A few songs are worth repeating. “Beggin’ For Thread” is undeniably catchy, and “Goddess” delivers genuine aggression that had me wanting to punch something—in a good way, I swear. The album’s high point is without a doubt the anguished and shameful “Waiting Game.” The building tension and vulnerability create an irresistible magnetism. When she gets it right, the result is hypnotic. But most of the time she falls flat on her face.
It’s very obvious that she’s an amateur artist. Her lyrics can be pretentious and awkward (“I know my disposition gets confusing/My disproportionate reactions fuse with my eager state”). She tries too hard to prove herself as the bitter, indignant victim. On most tracks, her misery is a little too trendy to be considered authentic.
The album is composed of a daunting eighteen tracks, and every single one has a similar mopey feeling that gets old fast. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole vengeful-scorned-woman bit as much as the next person, but it would’ve been nice to have at least one ray of sunshine somewhere in there.
The whole album felt confined to the idea that it had to be effortlessly cold, which ended up hurting it. I hoped for at least one track to be reckless and edgy, purely visceral. She has all this pent-up aggression that builds and builds throughout the album, but never explodes. I wanted violence, passion, and some unrestrained fury. But instead, I got the same resentful apathy over and over again.
Banks has a long way to go, but the potential for something great is there. Perhaps with a little more experience, she can let go of the self-loathing and throw in a little versatility. Goddess, despite its rather auspicious title, ends up being exhausting and angst-filled, with a few diamonds in the rough if you’re willing to look.